Moral Low Ground


Protests in Phoenix after Cop Kills Unarmed Black Man Rumain Brisbon

Rumain Brisbon with two of his daughters. (Family photo)

Rumain Brisbon with two of his daughters. (Family photo)

For the third straight night, protesters rallied and marched in Phoenix after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed drug suspect, mistaking his pill bottle for a gun.

Rumain Brisbon, a 34-year-old married father of four, was killed by a Phoenix officer at around 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, NBC News reports. According to police, the officer and his partner were responding to a burglary call in the vicinity of Interstate 17 and Greenway Road when a resident of an area apartment complex alerted the pair about men in a black Cadillac sport utility vehicle possibly selling drugs.

Police say the officer who shot Brisbon approached his SUV and ordered him to show his hands. Instead, they claim, the suspect placed his hands in his waistband, prompting the officer to draw his gun. Brisbon then allegedly attempted to flee on foot, but the officer gave chase and a fight ensued.

“The officer believed he felt the handle of a gun while holding the suspect’s hand in his pocket,” said Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump. When the officer felt he could no longer maintain his grip on Brisbon’s hand, he fired two shots. The ‘gun handle’ turned out to be a bottle of pain pills, but police did subsequently find a handgun and a jar of marijuana in the slain man’s SUV.

Brandon Dickerson, a friend of Brisbon’s who was in the SUV with him when he was shot, gave a different account of events, claiming the slain man was in the process of bringing home dinner for his children.

“They murdered my friend,” Dickerson told the Huffington Post. “[The officer] just jumped the gun and killed my friend in cold blood and they’re covering up.”

“I hate things to be so political but, unfortunately, it is,” added Dickerson. “It’s another Ferguson. It’s another Eric Garner. It’s another incident of police using excessive force.”
Dickerson said he never saw the officer approach the SUV as police claim.

“I never saw the police coming. They said they approached the vehicle. That was not the case,” Dickerson said.

Marci Kratter, a Phoenix attorney who represented Brisbon in a previous DUI case (he had three DUI citations, a marijuana conviction and was serving a five-year probation sentence for a 1998 burglary) and who has now been hired by his family, said she believes the police might not be providing a complete and honest explanation of the events surrounding the shooting.

“There are numerous witnesses that will challenge the police officer’s account of what transpired,” Kratter told the Arizona Republic.

“Tonight, four children are missing their father, a woman is missing her husband and a mother is missing her son,” Kratter continued. “It was a senseless tragedy. He was unarmed and not a threat to anyone. We intend to pursue this to the full extent of the law.”

Phoenix police officials would not go into further detail about the incident, nor would they identify the officer who killed Brisbon.

“We are not releasing any additional information on the case. The case will be turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office who was on scene the night of the shooting,” said Sgt. Crump. “They make the final decisions on justifications for use of force.”

Demonstrators took to the streets of Phoenix on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings to protest Brisbon’s killing, as well as against police brutality and killing of black men and boys throughout the nation.


Around 150 people marched through downtown Phoenix to police headquarters on Thursday evening, the Associated Press reported.

On Friday evening, several hundred protesters marched through downtown, at times stopping to stage ‘die-ins’ by lying down in the street as police in riot gear looked on. Some of them chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” a rallying cry stemming from the August 9 shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by white Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson.

“I’m hoping some change comes from tonight,” protester Leandra Swanner told the Republic. “I hope police realize protesters aren’t anti-police; they are anti-brutality.”

The Phoenix protests took place amid nationwide demonstrations over recent police killings of unarmed black men. Thousands of people in cities from Boston to Honolulu turned out for marches, rallies and acts of civil disobedience in reaction to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Brisbon and others by officers who protesters say are too quick to use deadly force.

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